While moseying through the SciFi/Fantasy section of the local Border's recently, one particular book caught my eye. It was "The Speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon. I was delighted to discover an unfamiliar novel by her, as she is one of my favorite authors. I flipped it over to read the back, wondering whether this was connected to either her fantasy or space opera series. To my amazement, it was neither. Instead, it turned out to be a piece of disability fiction, told from the perspective of an autistic man, set in the near future. Naturally, I picked it up and brought it home.
The majority of the story is told from the perspective of Lou Arrendale. In every event he is actually present for, we see the world from his point of view. When we meet him, he is an employee of a mega-corporation working in a specialized unit with other auties. He is content with his life and with being himself. He enjoys his job, has a comfortable routine, a crush on a girl, and is part of a fencing club. Then a new factor comes into his life: a new boss, who thinks he and his coworkers need to be cured. It starts out as an intellectual discussion, but the tension grows as his megacorp actually buys the cure and attempts to force them to take it. Now Lou must consider whether he is willing to lose his job and independent lifestyle, or whether he is willing to lose his identity.
Like any decently thought provoking book, this novel doesn't just answer the question it poses. It provides a lot of good cure vs anticure debate, explores the issue fearlessly, and allows the reader to come to his own conclusion of where right and wrong lies. It also takes on many side issues related to autism, including interpersonal relationships, religion, and the bias of the medical professions.
I loved this book... no, I fell into this book, occasionally surfacing for air and food. It was very hard to put down, and caused me a few sleepless nights. Whether you're aware of the debate over a cure or already have an opinion, this book provides much food for thought.